What to do when someone copies or steals your web content?

Plagiarism has been a big threat to print industry and the internet has been a base to spread the same as well. Now-a-days its a very normal thing to find your stories, blogs, articles in fact complete website design ripped off. People shamelessly do this, without informing the original author or providing any credit to the source. In a snap your hard-work gets tagged to someone else’s name. I know it can be frustrating and heart-breaking but one does not need to feel helpless.

I decided to write this post today as I discovered that one of my recent posts on a SMS App to find Autofare in India has been blatantly copied and posted as an original blog post on a different blog. I also came across another post on Forrst (Website Copied!) where a fellow designer’s client website has been copied and uploaded with new content. A further research unearth daily stories from effected individuals. So here in this post you will find some tips to help you claim your content back.

Though I guess you are a reader who has become a victim of website hijacking i.e. some part of your content copied by others to drive traffic, I will still start this post by mentioning ways to find out if your content has been copied.

How to find out if your web content has been copied?

There are quite a few tools to help you hunt down copied content across the internet. One of the best among them is CopyScape. CopyScape is a simple search where you input your web URL and it searched the internet to find duplicate content. It even highlights duplicate content.

Where copyscape helps in finding duplicate content. You can use DiffNow to compare two sets of data. You can compare with the help of direct text input, file upload or URLs. If you feel some one has copied your HTML code, simply compare to be sure.

How do to make sure I have copyright over my content?

Well as opposed to the myth that you need to register with a legal entity to gain copyright over your content, one does not need any kind of legal approval. Yes, if you have created some content or shared media online, you by default have the copyright to the same. You can specify a creative commons license on your website to exercise the same but again its not necessary. Any kind of content whether its a text or a photo create by you entitles you to have the copyright of the same. No legal process or authorization is required for the same. To understand copyrights further, would suggest you to check out 10 Big Myths of Copyright explained and Introduction to Copyrights.

Further the following blurb from Lorelle should clear any doubts,

Just because information is on the Internet does not mean it’s “free” to take and steal. Information, images, graphics, designs, and photographs, all are protected under copyright laws and are known as intellectual property. While it is nice to think that everything on the Internet is or should be free, for the most part it is. It is free to read, look at, wonder about, and even write about. It is not free to steal, make money from it, or use it as your own.

First step to take when you find your content has been copied.

This might seem a little kiddish but most web hijacking issues get solved via this step. The first step to solve such issues is to contact the concerned person. By contact,  I do not mean get in touch and abuse, defame or threaten the person. It is very important through the process that a professional attitude is reflected. Losing one’s mind and throwing ill-mannered tantrums make matters worse many of a times.

So, the suggested 1st step is to locate the person who has copied your content. There are various ways to finding this information. Starting from the obvious ‘contact us’ page to hunting in the whois directory for details. Once you have the details of the person, usually an email works the best. Write an email to the person pointing out the plagiarism and requesting the person to pull the same down. If you think, you would need help in framing such an e-mail, here are some stock letters. You can modify the same according to your need. It is very important for one to sound professional and serious in the mail.

What Next?

In case you do not get a positive reply or in fact any reply from the recipient. You can drop a mail to the hosting provider of the user’s website if it self hosted. You can find the hosting provider information from the whois information as well. In case the content has been posted on a different site, you can contact the administrator/owner of the site informing about the violation by the user. Many of a times this does the trick.

Gather Proof and be ready

It is very likely that you will be required to prove that you are the rightful owner of the copyright to the content. So start gathering proof that shows that you really are the original creator of the content. The proof can range from pro-dated blog posts to cached screenshots from Google. Anything and everything that helps show that what you are claiming is really yours should be kept ready as your ammunition. Use it as required.

You can even use WayBack machine to unearth old screenshots of your website where you can highlight the stolen content along with its age.

What if nothing worked till now?

Wait for 5 days and if the earlier mails did not do the magic then you can make the matters more serious.

Send a Cease and Desist Mail to the concerned person informing the same that you are legalizing the matter. Take steps to have the site banned from Search Engine according to the The Digital Millennium Copyright Act of 1998 (DMCA).

To contact the search engine with DMCA notifications – click here.

You can contact DMCA and for a very small amount ($5 I guess), they will take the matters in their hands and  try to remove your stolen content. Mind you, they will not help you sue the entity and claim damages but they surely can get you in touch with lawyers who deal with such cases. Hopefully your issue will be resolved after you have taken such steps and in future you will not have to face similar situations.

Register Copyright to further strengthen your rights

Well though I mentioned earlier that copyright can be established with getting any legal authorization, it really helps if you get legal approval for extra-sensitive information. Legal approval also helps you in suing the individual/company and claiming damages better. Here are some instructions on how you can register your copyrights.

Following links will help you to find more information on this topic:

Also, do share your experiences here to help others learn from what you went through. Share this post if you like it. icon smile What to do when someone copies or steals your web content?

You can use these badges from Lorelle to tell users that the content is copyright protected.

Written by Piyush Agarwal

Piyush Agarwal a.k.a OnlyYoursPiyu is a part-time freelance webdesigner who loves to play with design and the web around. You can check out his designs on TechnixDesigns. He is also into Theatre and Photography.

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